Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Elsewhere in the B1G: Badgers avenge 2012 loss, down No. 11 Florida 59-53

Fouad Egbaria (file photo)

With two matchups between top 5 teams going on elsewhere in America, this meeting between the Gators and Badgers didn't get as much attention as it should have. 

Despite being short-handed on account of a trio of suspensions, the Gators jumped out to an 7-2 lead thanks to Casey Prather and Kasey Hill. A couple of minutes later, a pair of Michael Frazier triples upped the UF lead to 13-4 early, as the Wisconsin offense was rudderless in the early stages. 

Wisconsin's excellent 3-point shooting from the St. John's game didn't carry over to his one; the Badgers started 0-of-5 from downtown.

Yet another triple from Frazier forced a Bo Ryan timeout. Down 16-4, the Badgers were in danger of getting run out of the gym. Sam Dekker stemmed the tide, hitting triples on consecutive possessions, the second in the secondary break facilitated by Traevon Jackson. Having cut the deficit to just six, the crowd, which had been eerily silent to that point, made sure it was heard. 

Although it's difficult to argue that the Badgers won't be a decidedly backcourt-oriented team this season, freshman forward Nigel Hayes put forth an encouraging opening 10 minutes or so, scoring six points on 3-of-4 shooting. 

UF got everything it wanted on the offensive end, as the Badgers couldn't figure out how to defend the ball screen. Wisconsin tightened up defensively as the half went along, allowing them to fight their way back into it as the game neared halftime. 

They fought so hard that they actually found themselves up, 29-26, following a 13-2 run at the end of the half. 
A Ben Brust triple from the top of the key five minutes into the second frame increased the Badgers lead to nine, 41-32. The Florida double digit lead of the first half was but a distant memory.

However, Michael Frazier, by far Florida's most productive player tonight, started to heat up again. The UW lead, which had been in the double digits, was back down to five, 49-44, with 7:09 to go.

The fouls mounted, bogging down what had at times been a speedy game. Truthfully, the final 10 minutes played out like your stereotypical Big Ten game; even for a slightly swifter Badgers squad, they are right at home in that sort of environment.

With each possession becoming increasingly precious, the Badgers would look to execute their trusty formula of old: run the clock and bury a late shot clock dagger. Frank Kaminsky buried a triple, his second of the game, to put Wisconsin up six with four minutes to play. Despite starting 0-for-5 from three, the Badgers were 47.4% from downtown by this point in the game.

Florida's Kasey Hill fouled out with 3:25 to play; regardless, the freshman only scored four points on a ghastly 2-of-11 from the field.

Fortunately for Florida, the Badgers missed some free throws down the stretch, allowing the Gators to keep the game within reach.

With under a minute to go, the Badgers ran the clock to its end before a Brust miss was corraled by Patric Young, who drew a Gasser foul (Gasser's fifth). The Gators were in the bonus, and Young stepped to the line for two, which he split, pulling the Gators to within three with 33.4 seconds remaining and a six second difference between the shot and game clocks.

The Badgers moved the ball until it found Traevom Jackson, who rose from the right elbow with 10 seconds left, fired inserted the nail in the coffin.

It wasn't always a representation of the aesthetic ideal, but the 59-53 win gave the Badgers their second quality win in as many games (how good the St. John's win actually was remains to be seen). Despite zero points from Gasser, the Badgers found a way to eek out enough points to grab a win against a talented, albeit short-handed Florida team.

As much as I've talked about the faster, "new look" Badgers, this win was vintage Wisconsin. The Badgers held UF to 0.9 points per possession for the game, an impressive recovery after it seemed like Florida was poised to blow them out early.

Paired with Michigan State's victory against No. 1 Kentucky at the United Center earlier, this proved to be a wildly successful evening for the Big Ten conference.

On that note: Big Ten basketball can't get here soon enough.

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